Story | 05/21/2024 09:40:33 | 7 min Read time

Not a stick goes to waste on the wood’s journey from forest to log house

Renewable wood is an excellent building material. Moreover, wood either binds carbon dioxide or stores carbon through different stages of its life cycle. Raw material producer UPM Timber and manufacturer of small houses and Finnlamelli log cabins DEN Finland value wood so much that everything – down to the last stick – is used in the production chain.

Wood is a durable building material that is easy to work with. Log buildings utilise wood in one of its most beautiful forms. Many of us have admired the grain patterns, warmth and atmosphere of logs in new and old log buildings. In addition, wood is a renewable natural material that during its life cycle either binds or stores carbon. 

Sawn timber supplier UPM Timber and small home and log house supplier DEN Finland both understand the uniqueness of wood and share a desire to ensure a responsible production chain. Responsibly managed forests form the cooperation’s first link, and at the end of the chain, you will find log houses with a life cycle from tens to hundreds of years. The appreciation of wood that UPM Timber and DEN share is evident, for example, in the careful use of raw materials at every stage of the supply chain.

Finnish families own the majority of forests

The supply chain starts in the forest. About 3/4 of Finland's land area is forest. Private individuals own 43 per cent of the forest land and the state about 35 per cent, according to the Finnish Forest Centre. The country’s forests can rightly be called a national asset, as there are about 550,000 private forest owners and an even larger group of Finns are affected through family bonds. 

Every tenth Finn is therefore practically a wood producer. One of them is architect Ilkka Halinen, who, in his 40-year career as a planner and former city architect of Jyväskylä, among other things has helped raise the appreciation of timber construction through architectural competitions.

As a forest owner, Ilkka cooperates with UPM Metsä, which provides UPM Timber with logs for sawing. In principle, a log sold from Ilkka's forest may have come to the UPM Timber Alholma sawmill in Jyväskylä and continued to the DEN Finnlamelli factory in Alajärvi for further processing into logs for buildings.

“A high degree of refinement, wood construction and innovations inspire me both as a forest owner and an architect, although I also appreciate traditional Finnish log construction,” says Ilkka.

The tradition of timber construction is alive not only in Ilkka’s childhood home built in the 1800s but also in his son, who is also an architect specialising in wood building. 

Wood is a long-lasting building material that stores carbon

Previous generations hardly thought of carbon storage when they built houses, but their homes have functioned as such for more than a century. Ilkka's childhood home, made of logs, has already passed to the next generation of the family, and eventually, Ilkka will also pass the forest estate on to his son. Ilkka has entrusted the main responsibility for managing the estate to UPM Metsä as a contract customer and particularly to Hannu Nyrhilä Responsible, Forest Customers. Based on his extensive experience, he knows both the forest owners and their forests well.

“Most forest owners want to pass their forests on to the next generation in as good or better condition than they inherited them,” Hannu describes his customers' mindset.

UPM supports this way of thinking. As a contract customer, Ilkka receives all the expertise and support that a forestry professional can provide, but ultimately, he decides how he wants his forests to be managed.

Most forest owners want to pass their forests on to the next generation in as good or better condition than they inherited them
Hannu Nyrhilä, Responsible, Forest Customers, UPM Metsä

All wood is utilised sustainably

Forests are also protected by law. They cannot be destroyed, and the growth of new forests must be ensured. UPM Timber uses only sustainably and legally harvested wood from responsibly managed forests, and the origin of the wood is 100 per cent known. 

In addition, the wood is treated with care already in the forest. The thickest, straight part of the stem is cut into logs and processed into sawn timber. DEN and Finnlamelli might for instance have ordered specific dimensions and lengths needed in their log production, and these dimensions are considered during timber harvesting. This practice minimises waste even before the logs reach the sawmill. Other parts of the wood are used in, for example, paper and cardboard production and energy generation.

Sawdust and chips are utilised as raw material and energy

Sawmill Director Mika Åby leads the Alholma sawmill in Pietarsaari, one of UPM Timber's four sawmills.

“All our operations begin with the customer's needs. When DEN, for example, orders and receives the required dimensions and lengths, which have already been taken into account in the forest, the waste rate here at the sawmill remains low. All wood material is efficiently utilised," Mika says.

Among other things, the bark of the sawn logs is used to heat various areas of the sawmill and to dry the timber. Sawdust and chips from the sawing process are efficiently used as raw material for pulp or to produce heat. Not a single stick goes to waste, and that, if anything, is a sign of respect for the wood raw material.

We produce safe and healthy log homes of Finnish wood for both the Finnish market and for export
Jarmo Huhtala, Operations Manager, DEN Finland

Wood at its noblest in a home

According to Operations Director Jarmo Huhtala, DEN and its customers appreciate UPM Timber for its high-quality sawn timber of sustainable origin, efficient raw material utilisation and responsible supply chain.

Log house designers do not only consider the requirements of high-quality living and functionality but also the optimal utilisation of raw materials. The quality of the sawn timber and the agreed dimensions and lengths help to control waste at the Finnlamelli factory too.

“We mainly process the sawn timber supplied by UPM Timber into logs at the Alajärvi factory and ultimately into high-quality log buildings. With the help of finger joints, i.e. glued joints, we can extend the wood blanks, which improves quality and minimises waste,” Jarmo explains. 

The grooving and other processing of wood naturally produce sawdust and chips, which means that the factory is self-sufficient in terms of heat production. DEN sells excess sawdust and chips to its partner, who processes them into pellets for others in need of heat.

“The popularity of turnkey log houses has steadily increased. Our non-settling RYHTI logs allow for modern and versatile construction methods. We produce safe and healthy log homes of Finnish wood for both the Finnish market and for export,” Jarmo states.

When the wood has finally been transformed into a warm log house on the customer's plot, UPM Timber and DEN can proudly look back on the raw material supply chain: not a single stick was wasted.


Main image: Finnlamelli

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